Cheffing in Cambodia: a blog by Richard Bias

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th April 2014
Just starting the harvest 091In April, Cambodia is at the peak of its hot season and temperatures dance around thirty-six degrees with eighty-percent humidity; it’s so hot that you sweat putting on your shoes in the morning. Normally I work split shifts but with this heat I’m reluctant to take a break and get grilled medium-rare on the way home! The streets are so dry and dusty that I can’t even hang my washing out to dry as it will turn a dusty red colour in a matter of minutes. So for now we all complain about the heat, including the locals, but this time next month we will be complaining about the rain, because when it rains in Asia, it rains! The infrastructure cannot cope with masses of water so the drains flood and rivers burst their banks; the roads are ankle deep in water making driving a motor-bike almost impossible. DSC_0929   The first of the rains is a good time for Cambodia as this is when they can plant the rice. Cambodia produces around nine-million tonnes of rice at the moment but this figure is constantly rising. Of that production they export nearly four-hundred thousand tonnes, eleven thousand of which ends up in the UK. At the global rice tasting competition during the World Rice Conference held in Hong Kong last November, Cambodia’s premium fragrant rice was named: “World’s best rice” for the second year running.  Next time you are in the supermarket, look out for Cambodian fragrant or jasmine rice and give it a try!   Rice is the staple diet of Cambodia along with most of the Asian continent:  the production of this crop is a beautiful thing. The paddy fields transform in colour throughout the season:  they start off brown and muddy, freshly ploughed; one paddy is then flooded with water and the young rice plants arrive and are planted here until, in turn, the rest of the surrounding paddies are ready DSC_0550 to be planted. This is the time when the brown earth is flooded with water and the transplanting begins. As the rice begins to grow and becomes thick and dense, the landscape takes on the look of a fresh green patchwork quilt turning multiple intense shades of green.  Once the rains begin to slow and the sunny days become more frequent the rice transforms from the lush green to golden yellows and this is when it’s time to harvest and the hard work starts. I’ve experienced three rice seasons first hand in Vietnam and you can read all about it here : http://culinaryinspirations.wordpress.com/       Richard BiasRichard Bias is the 32-year-old executive chef of a hotel in Siem Reap in Cambodia, a popular tourist destination due to its proximity to the famous Angkor Wat temple complex. He previously worked in Sapa in Vietnam for three and half years and before that he had stints in Ireland Cambodia and Dubai including the world’s only seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab. Richard originally comes from Harlow on the river Thames where as a child he helped out in the kitchen of the family pub. As a young chef Richard was a finalist in the Academy of Culinary Arts Awards of Excellence, runner up in the first ever Gordon Ramsay Scholarship and winner of the Rungis Club UK’s Young Chef of the Year. Richard shares more of his experiences on his online blog ‘culinaryinspirations’.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th April 2014

Cheffing in Cambodia: a blog by Richard Bias